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Some pet owners turning to pot to treat their pets


By Nancy Aziz

San Diego - Some pet owners, tired of having traditional medicine fail, are turning to an unusual method to help their pets suffering from cancer, anxiety or pain. They are using marijuana.

Melissa who is from Southern California and doesn't want her identity known has been giving her dog Tobasco pot for the past year. She says it's saved his life.

"I had never heard of medical marijuana for pets," she said adding the decision to use it on her aging Bassett Hound wasn't one she took lightly. "We were honestly desperate, we didn't know what else to do."

She says Tobasco wasn't eating because of stomach ulcers. His heart condition and acid reflux limited the medications he could take. She says he had lost ten pounds and was wasting away.

"He was so sick and he was suffering and that was not fair," she said.

Melissa said she didn't want to euthanize Tobasco, but didn't want to see him suffer either, as a last resort she tried marijuana; giving him drops in his mouth three times a day.

"He's gained ten pounds, he eats well again, he's his normal happy self, he wants to go for walks, to play, he's just happy," she said.

"The purpose is not to get your dog high, it's not a recreational use, it's a medication," she said.

Like other pet owners giving their animals marijuana for medical reasons Melissa is afraid. Pot is legal in California for people with medical conditions, but that's not the case for pets.

"There's uncertainty about how it would be handled, so it is scary," she said

Still many pet owners are taking that risk using it to treat anxiety, pain, seizures and lack of appetite from cancer therapies.

"It gives people a way to give their pet an extended quality of life," she said.

Veterinarians are barred from prescribing it and they can't say it's safe either because marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 Drug by the federal government making controlled studies nearly impossible.

"I think it might very well be beneficial to a lot of patients but again it's by no means safe, we just don't know enough about it yet," said Emergency and Critical Care Specialist Veterinarian Heather Mineo.

She says just because it works in humans, doesn't mean it works for pets.

"We know for sure that dogs and cats don't metabolize ingredients in marijuana like people do so we know for sure that amounts tolerated in people are not tolerated well in dogs and cats," she said.

Because veterinarians can't prescribe marijuana for pets and there is little to no research, many pet owners are forced to resort to trial and error to find a dose that works.

Melissa admits that was scary, but she says she had to try to save Tobasco.

"I wish it was easier to come by so that other people with suffering pets could have the same experience," she said.

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